Self-regulation insufficient

By Rhiannon Kirkland

In light of the recent listeriosis outbreak that led Maple Leaf Foods to voluntarily recall items produced at their Barton Road facility, food safety has come to the forefront this election. Canadians have had their confidence in the food supply shaken and want to know if their food is safe.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has been moving towards a food safety system in which industry plays a greater role in testing than inspectors. Inspectors also spend more time reviewing paper work filed by companies under the new self regulatory system and less time inspecting plants. The Conservative Party defends this policy and believes that it has not hampered the ability of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to respond to the listeria outbreak. They argued the voluntary actions taken by Maple Leaf are proof that self-regulation can work.

Calgary-West candidates questioned these beliefs, claiming stricter regulations and enforcement is needed.

“We do need a lot more control and a lot more oversight and we need a lot more protections for Canadian consumers,” said NDP candidate Teale Phelps Bondaroff.

According to independent candidate Kirk Schmidt, the government should act as a watchdog looking out for public safety. He stressed that industry should never be in the final decision making process in health and safety matters.

“The industry policing itself hasn’t been very successful,” said Schmidt. “We do need to get government regulations back in.”

Liberal candidate Jennifer Pollock said taking punitive and reactive measures after the fact is not enough. Instead, she advocated preventive measures like better enforcement of food safety standards.

“We all pretty much know what happens when people self-regulate, this is the same thing that caused the Walkerton problem,” said Green Party candidate Randy Weeks. “They cut back on government water safety inspectors and left these small towns to fend for themselves and people died.”

Marxist-Leninist candidate Andre Vachon said the government needs to stop cutting corners and worry about people’s health instead.

Harper promised that an independent investigation into the listeria outbreak will take place.